Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo Charged With Murder in Santa Cruz Deputy’s Killing
USLorenz Duchamps

A U.S. Air Force sergeant accused of shooting a California deputy last week, throwing lit pipe bombs, and shooting at other deputies has been charged with 19 felonies on Thursday.

Steven Carrillo, 32, has been charged with murder, murder by lying in wait, attempted murder, assault, carjacking, and possession of explosives, according to a 14-page indictment filed in the Superior Court of Santa Cruz.

The charges against Carrillo make him eligible for the death penalty or life without parole, but prosecutors have not mentioned anything about pursuing the death penalty, Mercury News reported.

Carrillo has been accused of the murder of Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, and with the attempted murder of Deputy Alex Spencer, 38, who was critically injured and remains hospitalized.

Spencer was shot in the chest but was saved by his bulletproof vest. Most of the injuries he suffered were from shrapnel wounds from an explosive before he was struck by Carrillo’s white van as the suspect fled the home in Ben Lomond, where Carrillo grew up and lived with his father.

“He murdered Sgt. Gutzwiller,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said at a news conference earlier this week. “He injured another deputy, another police officer and he’s going to be held accountable.”

Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller
Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller. (Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

“He was very intent on killing these police officers,” Hart added. “They had no idea that they were about to get into this firefight.”

The FBI has been working with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and believe Carrillo is also linked to other crimes committed in Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area, including an attack that killed a Federal Protective Service officer and critically wounded another officer on May 29, which both involved a white van.

John Bennett, an FBI special agent talked about the possible connection between Carrillo’s white van and one sought in connection with the Oakland shooting, KPIX5 reported.

“Many of you have asked about this (the white van) in connection with the shooting of two federal protection officers in Oakland,” Bennett said. “We are actively investigating the possibility of links between these cases. However, as this investigation is ongoing. I cannot provide or I will not provide details … on it.”

Authorities said Carrillo posted anti-cop messages on social media on the night of June 6, shortly before the killing of Sgt. Gutzwiller. Gutzwiller and Spencer responded to a citizen’s call about a man (Carrillo) driving a van with guns and explosive devices when they were ambushed and shot by Carrillo at the Ben Lomond home.

Santa Cruz Sheriff Jim Hart
Santa Cruz Sheriff Jim Hart stands next to Hart’s wife and child and a photo of fallen Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, as more than a thousand people gather outside the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office to pay their respects in Santa Cruz, Calif., on June 7, 2020. (Martha Mendoza/AP Photo)

Carrillo managed to escape, carjacked a vehicle, and tried to carjack several others before being subdued through the herculean efforts of a heroic resident, Hart said.

The unidentified man saw Carrillo in his backyard and confronted him. Carrillo was armed with the AR-15 and demanded the man’s car keys. The man retrieved the keys, gave them to Carrillo. Once Carrillo turned away the man tackled him and the rifle fell away from him.

As they struggled, Carrillo pulled a pipe bomb from his pants and tried unsuccessfully to light it. He then pulled out a pistol and the man was able to knock it out of his hands and then subdue him as neighbors came to help, Hart said.

“This guy could have done a lot more damage in our community,” Hart said.

The man who subdued Carrillo does not want to be publicly identified, Hart said, but he plans to award him a medal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.